An evangelical Christian university in Minnesota is encouraging its professors to stop using words with masculine connotations — such as “man” and “mankind” — because those words aren’t sufficiently “inclusive.” Bethel University in St. Paul is the school, reports Campus Reform.
The document asking faculty members to avoid using masculine terminology is entitled “Language is a Powerful Tool.” “To be clear in our Christian witness, the Bethel faculty encourages the use of inclusive language,” the document explains.
Professors at 6,000-student Bethel University should “avoid using masculine terms to refer to people who may be either male or female.” They should “employ inclusive language and images when speaking about or addressing human beings in academic work, public discourse, classroom discussion, college documents and publications and in worship experiences.” “Use a substitute for words like ‘man’ or ‘mankind’” when making general references to people, the guide says. “English is sometimes awkward” but “words like ‘humans,’ ‘humanity,’ ‘beings,’ ‘people” and ‘all’ are often adequate substitutes.”
Obviously, Bethel University’s guidance for using inclusive language in “documents and publications and in worship experiences” runs into considerable difficulty in any encounter with the Bible, the collected sacred texts of Christianity.
In Genesis 1:26, for example, the New International Version of the Bible reports God as saying, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness.”
In Genesis 1:27, the New International Version relates this information: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
The older King James Version of the Bible presents even more problems for “inclusive” language. For example, that Bible’s version of Genesis 1:25 reads, in part: “And God made the beast of the earth after his kind.”
The New Testament also creates thorny problems for advocates of “inclusive” gender language. For example, Matthew 18:11 reads: “For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.”
The very exact phrase “son of man” interweaves in a very critical way throughout several Old Testament and New Testament books, including Ezekiel, Daniel, the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles and Revelation.
In any case, Bethel University’s faculty language guide also urges professors to avoid several phrases including “man and wife.” Other sections of the guide address “inclusive language” as it relates to age, race, disabilities and social class. Bethel University’s faculty committee on family and gender equity created the school document on “inclusive” language. The document repeatedly stresses that its advice is voluntary and not mandatory.